All about integrated water resources management

BOOK>> Integrated Water Resources Management Global Theory, Emerging Practice and Local Needs Edited by Peter P Mollinga, Ajaya Dixit and Kusum Athukorala Sage Publications Delhi. 2006

Published: Saturday 31 March 2007

This book attempts to identify the challenges in putting into practice the concept of Integrated Water Resource Management (iwrm) in South Asia, a region where iwrm has just found its place in the water policy vocabulary. A collection of 12 research papers, this volume is first of 10 books planned as part of the Water in South Asia series by the South Asian Consortium on Interdisciplinary Water Resource Studies in Hyderabad. The articles debate crucial aspects like the 'socially inclusive and politically aware' phase of water resource management, also called the 'fifth paradigm'.Contemplative and comprehensive, the book has lucid prose and is balanced in content. The book has an interesting discussion on Germany's experience with iwrm-based water governance under the Water Framework Directive. Revealing the practical and institutional hurdles in river basin management, the study calls for the need for a more open and interactive form of regional environmental governance. It cautions that copycat institutional reforms--blind transposing of European models of river basin organisations and management prescriptions in developing country contexts--might prove counter productive.

India's water policy is silent about a new paradigm for water management, and it continues to adopt 'reductionist perspectives' of traditional water engineering. The seven important indicators of a new and 'holistic paradigm' of water management are also identified in the book, a good attempt indeed.

Another argument comes as a warning against 'single resource thinking' where water management delinks the crucial land-water connection. The last six chapters of the book look at a few practical examples of 'integration'. The book argues for a participatory dialogue with stakeholders, which would help combat disharmony, conflict, underdevelopment, and marginalisation.

At some places, graphs and figures do not go with the analysis. In chapter four, the Rhine basin graph shows rainfall staying mostly below evapo-transpiration levels while the authors state the opposite. Phrases like "non-beneficial depletion" clash with the basic principles of iwrm that states every drop of water in a river basin performs some ecological service. The authors appear to be ignorant of the water policy revisions like the 2005 Model Bill on groundwater regulation and management in India.

Despite the shortcomings, this is an outstanding contribution that calls for the need to examine prospects of future water management in South Asia from an interdisciplinary knowledge base perspective. It is strongly recommended as it examines the risks and uncertainties in knowledge, invloved while taking wise decisions on iwrm in South Asia.

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